By Maj. Bernadette Dozier, 388th Fighter Wing
/ Published January 22, 2007
Hill Air Force Base, Utah -- Air Combat Command's top leader said he's proud of the 388th Fighter Wing members' "enthusiasm and commitment to the mission" - something he saw firsthand during a visit here Jan. 9-11.
"I was very impressed with the folks I met here...impressed with the mission they're executing," said Gen. Ronald E. Keys, commander of ACC.
Every place he stopped, he said he saw innovative people who were upbeat and proud of what they are doing and who are trying to find a better way to do business.
The general, accompanied by his mobilization assistant, Maj. Gen. Michael K. Lynch, toured sections across the wing in aircraft maintenance, flight, air control, and range operations, and support services like the Flightline Ministry; the newly remodeled flightline kitchen, Fast Eddie's; and the Junior Enlisted Center.
Staff Sgt. Daniel Chavez, the president of the Junior Enlisted Association, which oversees the center, gave the general a tour of the facility, which offers various activities in an alcohol-free environment for all base technical sergeants and below.
The only thing missing, according to Sergeant Chavez, was a much-needed music room, which was put on hold due to lack of funds - that is until General Keys presented him with a $5,000 check and told him "to go ahead and build a music room now."
The music room now has two guitars and two amplifiers.
"Before that room was empty, but now there's people lining up to use the equipment, and 12 people have already volunteered to build the music room...this is the most drastic reaction to any project we've had thus far," the sergeant said.
"It was surreal meeting the general. There's so much history with one individual," he said. "Even though I've been in nine years, it's still unnerving to meet someone like (him) because of all the things he's done and what he represents."
While here the general shared his thoughts on Air Force issues like personnel reductions, Total Force Integration and recapitalization.
Regarding personnel reductions, General Keys said the first step is to figure out the core tasks his people must accomplish.
"I'm not a big fan of doing more with less," the general said. "We have to figure out what are the absolute core things we have to do...then we figure out what are the right ways to do it."
Airmen at the grassroots level, he said, are critical to the success of a leaner force.
"We're making some real progress on ways to do things smarter, cheaper and better," General Keys said. "As I talk to everyone, I tell them I have to rely on the field because they're the ones closest to the problem."
"Once we have those right things identified, we have to figure out the right way to do things and do it that way across (the command) because we're an expeditionary Air Force...we have to be a 'plug and play Air Force' and we have to stop doing things differently across the command because that generates more training, more time away from home, and more of all the bad things we don't want."
With the integration of the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings underway, the general described TFI as a way to blend the strengths of the active duty force with the Reserve component, calling the initiative something the Air Force must do to be able to "fight tonight," as well as fight many years from now.
"(TFI) helps me season my force faster and it helps me gain the advantages and experiences that would take me five, six or eight years to perhaps get the same experience I might be able to get in four years when I've got a 15 or 16-year experienced maintenance troop standing beside my young Airman, and I've got a flight lead who's been to three wars taking my young lieutenant out," General Keys said. "So there's a real advantage to putting these two organizations together."
Recapitalization is another Air Force issue that has an impact locally, especially with the
Common Configuration Implementation Program upgrades to the wing's Block 40 F-16s.
"CCIP is the perfect example because that gives us the capability to do very high-end precision targeting, some non-traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and the same kind of high-end stuff we're going to need 30 years from now," the general said.
Along with sensor capabilities, the CCIP upgrades provide network-centric capabilities, allowing the exchange of information to other people in the fight, explained the general.
"That becomes more and more critical as our force gets smaller and our forces (have) to become smarter, so we have the right force at the right place at the right time."
Besides interacting with wing members, General Keys met with about 20 local civic leaders; he praised their support of the base and both fighter wings.
"Good community leaders and good community support like this makes us much stronger as an Air Force because they can do for us what we can't do for ourselves," General Keys said. "They're very much involved and understand the challenges we face in the Air Force and they're willing to take our message where we need that message taken - and that's very helpful."
The visit was a success, according to Col. Robert Beletic, 388 FW commander.
"I am proud of the Airmen in this wing - whether it's during a four-star general's visit, during an exercise or inspection, everyday operations or downrange, our Airmen always give 100 percent," Colonel Beletic said. "It's an honor to serve with such disciplined Airmen who provide our Nation with the world's best close air support, the world's best air control, and the world's best test and training range."
According to COMACC, base visits like this help him better organize, train and equip Airmen across the command.
"It's good for me to get out from behind my desk at Langley (Air Force Base) and see where the job's being executed, so when I go home I'm resolved to do better in providing resources and training...and I go back to my headquarters with the understanding the people are committed, disciplined and dedicated to making the mission happen."